Please sign in to post.

Paris in 7 Days 9/15/14

Paris in 7 Days 9/15/14

**Warning - long post, several sections.

Overall: I did this tour back to back with the 21 day BOE. I knew that the 1.5 days in Paris at the end of the BOE would not be enough and felt I wanted to have a more in depth experience in Paris. I had last been to Paris in, uh…1976. It was hot as heck and all I remember were the smells of dog poo and the pissoirs. Still, I thought I wanted a new look at Paris. At the beginning of the BOE, the guide Dimitri said I will make you love Paris and I was hooked and SO glad I had booked the 7 day tour. So fast forward to this tour and it was terrific! We basically had a group activity in the morning, either visiting a museum or doing a walking tour, then were free for the afternoon. We had 3 meals together, the first night, a couple of nights into the week and then the farewell dinner. One afternoon about 5 we gathered back at the hotel to go for our tour of the Louvre.

Group: This was a smaller group. With a short tour like this the group dynamic is radically different from the 21 day tour. Again, the group was made up of very interesting people but in the afternoons people pretty much went their own ways. There was one other solo traveler and 2 women traveling together, so 4 single women and the rest were couples.

Activity Level/Fitness level: Each day started out at about 9 or 930. One day we may have gotten started at 845. I did not find this tour strenuous at all altho some of the people on the tour found it very tiring. Oddly enough several people got sick and stayed in the hotel for a day here and there. This kind of shocked me as on the 21 day tour altho a cold was passed around the group no one missed a thing. I think you need to be able to walk 3 or 4 miles to be successful on this tour. Montmartre was pretty hilly and of course you have many stairs in the Metro. At Versailles it is a loooong walk from the Petit Trianon and Hamlet area back to the Versailles train station.

Guide: Rolinka was our guide and wow! was she fantastic. She lives in Paris and very much wants you to love her adopted home. Her enthusiasm was contagious. She has a wonderful grounding in history, art and culture which she willingly shares. She had the entire group laughing so hard with her story about when the new enclosed, automated bathrooms were installed. She also cracked us up with her comments into the speaker system and made sure we were courteous tourists and Metro travelers.

Training as Independent Travelers: The greatest thing was having a 6 day Museum card and the 7 day Navigo Metro Pass. That really provided a lot of freedom and encouragement to move around. Rolinka did a splendid job of training us to be independent travelers. We had a Metro lesson the first morning and she tested us a couple of times to see if we had gotten it. One tour member was having a harder time figuring it out so Rolinka had her lead with our help. She got it right away and was completely Metro-independent for the rest of the week.

Posted by
8244 posts

Sights: This tour does take some research as to what you might like to see on the free afternoons. Rolinka had wonderful suggestions, usually in the neighborhood of where we ended up, but you also need to do some footwork on your own. I loved the variety of things we did as a group. Rolinka lead walking tours in the Latin Quarter and added on St Germain des Pres as well as an in depth walk on her home turf of Montmartre. She did an excellent job of orienting us to the neighborhood around the hotel and took the Metro to or from all 4 nearby stations to add to that. I really liked having the speaker system during all the walks. It seemed to save a lot of time waiting for the group to gather up so she could talk about something but also allowed her to point out things as we moved along. I also loved, loved, loved her sharp wit, which only we were privy to! I learned SO much on this tour!

Local guides: We had local guides for a Marais walk (a Paris Walks guide), the Louvre (Vincent was wonderful!), the Orangerie (Joelle was fantastic in the water lilies rooms) and Versailles (Elisabeth who is an RS guide as well) and of course they were fabulous.

Hotel: This tour stayed at the Hotel Le M in the Montparnasse area. The hotel was modern, AC was powerful (and needed as this was during a hot spell in Paris), the desk staff were terrific and helpful. They also smiled indulgently when we tried to communicate in our awful French, then answered in perfect English. They were willing to print out an Easy Jet boarding pass for me with no problem. The breakfast buffet was very nice. However, I did not like this neighborhood. While I was traveling there was a long thread on the forum regarding the concept of “safety” and what do people mean when they post a question asking if a city or a sight is “safe”. Well, as a solo woman traveler, I did not feel particularly safe in this neighborhood at night. Daytime was fine. Nighttime there was a lot of activity in the cafes along the street, but there were also some solo middle aged men standing around. The evening when we had our Farewell dinner we were heading back from the Metro stop more or less in a group. One of the group members was feeling sick so a number of people were walking with her as she slowly made her way. The other solo participant and I were slightly ahead of them by perhaps 20 feet and another group was ahead of us by another 20 feet. Several men did approach the 2 of us and said something in French which we ignored and kept on walking. It was not particularly threatening as we had many tour members very close by but it would not have been comfortable if we had been alone. I will say this was a Sat night and I had walked from the Metro stop to the hotel on Tuesday night when it was not as busy and none of these guys were around. Intellectually I know that neither Rick Steves, ETBD, nor the RS guides would ever knowingly put tour members in a neighborhood that was not perfectly safe. My inner chicken did not know that and was throwing up red flags. After this, I decided my personal criteria for a safe neighborhood for me to stay in is one that has people ranging in age from elderly to babies in strollers to people walking their dogs. I want the neighborhood folks to talk and nod to each other including patting dogs and talking with babies. I want the café waiters to nod to the neighborhood regulars.

Posted by
8244 posts

On being Vegan: Paris was pretty easy to be vegan in. We had just 3 group meals together and Rolinka made sure I had vegan food. The Welcome dinner, oddly enough, was in the same Café I had eaten at the night before for my BOE Farewell dinner with even the same waiter. He was worried that I might have to eat the same thing 2 nights in a row, which bothered me not at all. The food was delicious but I found it touching that he would have a concern. I did attempt to eat falafel as often as possible as good falafel is pretty thin on the ground in N. Idaho. L’As du Falafel (pointed out on the Marais walk) along with other falafel stands were terrific.

Paris hospitality/pickpockets/Roma: I found the people in Paris were wonderful and helpful. I got turned around in St-Germain-des-Pres and had backed into a doorway to study a map and figure out where I was. An older man (my age, lol) stopped and asked if he could help with directions, then insisted he walk with me to the main corner and point me in the right direction. So very kind! I actually found people chatty which surprised me! As to pickpockets, the first night in town on the BOE tour, on the Metro, we got pushed into the car and then a tour member found a man’s hand in his pocket. The man had on a suit and tie and promptly got off the Metro at the next stop. The tour member had nothing in that pocket so all was well, but it served as a reminder. The morning this tour started I was sitting on a bench in the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower having an I-cant-believe-I-am-sitting-here moment and a car with sirens blaring came racing into the area and bumped over the berm into the central grassy area. Police piled out and rounded up a bunch of the Roma petition girls who had just swept thru the area. Actually it looked like Inspector Clouseau was in charge as the police car tore something off the undercarriage and they spent a lot of time on their knees looking at the underside of the vehicle. They also rounded up too many people to fit in the tiny police car so called for reinforcements who when they got there, raced down the side path, siren blaring and raced right by the knot of cops and detainees as the first cops waved their arms and shouted at their back up. Car 2 realized they had missed them, made a screeching U-turn and headed back for the group. Quite entertaining! Then, the week after the Paris tour, I was with a friend waiting for another friend to come in to Gare du Nord on the Eurostar. There was an unattended piece of luggage which triggered train stops and clearing of part of the station. We were standing there and noticed a young Roma woman circling. She went up to an older man (again, my age, lol) who had a suitcase and a cross body messenger bag but was not really paying attention to his surroundings. She started handing him her petition/card so I stepped behind her and said to the man, be careful it’s a scam. She whipped her head around and glared at me and stomped off, then stomped back and screamed “B*tch” at me. He moved over to talk with us and said she had showed him a card that said in English that she was deaf and mute and was asking for money. He was shocked that she had heard me warn him and doubly shocked she screamed at me. So much for deaf and mute. I do feel we foiled a pickpocketing.

What I wish I had known: Somehow I missed the statement in the pre-tour info that you needed to bring a picture for the Navigo Pass. The hotel was able to photocopy the picture page of my passport which worked just fine.

Posted by
8244 posts

Wow! moment: After we toured St Chapelle, Rolinka suggested attending a concert there. I had read about them on the Helpline but really had not keyed in to going. She offered to make reservations for anyone who wanted to go. I jumped on the chance altho no one else did. She made arrangements for me and what a marvelous experience! I had been to a Vivaldi concert in Venice a couple of weeks prior. There the musicians were so very passionate when they played your heart just broke at the beauty. In St Chapelle, the musicians and in particular the soloist, were playful and yes, even kind of sexy. The acoustics in the church are amazing. At one point the soloist played and danced down the aisle to the back where there was scaffolding but the sound resonated so well that it still sounded like he was at the front. This concert was so fabulous I went again the next week as well. Yes, second time, still as great! I deeply appreciated Rolinka’s suggestion and her organizing a ticket for me.

Bottom line: This is a great way to feel comfortable in Paris, get a quick course in the history and culture of Paris and see some of the nooks and crannies you might otherwise miss. As always, the RS guide and the local guides added immensely to the enjoyment of the trip and the organization helped me to see more than I would have on my own.

Posted by
2031 posts

Great trip report, Pam! Thanks! Could I get you to write mine for me? Non? I keep promising myself that next trip I'll keep a journal. As usual, this last trip I was good for only a week.

Posted by
865 posts

Great post, Pam! I've been lucky enough to have had Rolinka as a guide twice, and I absolutely love her. I'd follow her anywhere!

Posted by
359 posts

So glad you had such a good time. I love Paris and love hearing when other people do too!


Posted by
8244 posts

Thanks to all! And yes, I agree. I would go anywhere with Rolinka.

Darcy, not to worry, I kept a journal on your activities in Paris...lol!

Posted by
1616 posts

Pam, thanks for the great report! We did Loire to the South of France in May with Rolinka and loved traveling with her, she's a real gem! Glad you had a good time in Paris!

Posted by
4361 posts

"After this, I decided my personal criteria for a safe neighborhood for me to stay in is one that has people ranging in age from elderly to babies in strollers to people walking their dogs. I want the neighborhood folks to talk and nod to each other including patting dogs and talking with babies. I want the café waiters to nod to the neighborhood regulars."

I hear ya! I couldn't help but immediately think of a great speech from one of my mostest favoritest TV shows ever, "Knots Landing":

Rose-colored glasses

Posted by
2031 posts

But Pam, surely you won't post the journal of our week in Paris, will you? I thought it was understood among the 8 of us that what happens in Paris, stays in Paris! heehee!

Posted by
65 posts

Thanks for the trip review! So many good tips and suggestions! I have had my eye on this particular trip for many years now and am hoping to be able to go on this someday. I have been to Paris twice before, but not for that many days and my tour was not nearly as comprehensive as this particular one.

Posted by
11450 posts

Pam I am loving all your trip reports, but I have stayed in that neighborhood, not alone though, but with my 11 yr old daughter and it is quite safe, really ..the ideal neighborhood you describe does sound a tad imaginary you know lol!
Remember there can be crazies anywhere or men that hit on you etc, it was an isolated incident .

Good for you warning that man, I am still surprised that tourists fall for the " deaf mute" thing, don't they reliaze that France is not a third world country and citizens that have disabilities do not have to beg!

I think you were very smart to take the extra time to enjoy Paris too, two days is really not enough!